ALEXANDRIA, Va.-It is apparent that NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnsonand Board Member Debbie Matz come from different worlds. Johnsonwas raised on a farm in a rural town in Iowa, while Matz grew up ina New York City housing project. Johnson is a Republican who usesthe title `chairman.' Matz is a Democrat who goes by Ms. Matz. Atsome point the two sides had to clash and election season seems theappropriate time for the presidential appointees. A recent spate ofpress releases from both sides at the agency regardinghomeownership could not be more contradictory in how they view thedata. Johnson's press release, supporting President George W.Bush's campaign, stated, "In 2003, the number of homeownersincreased by 1.7 million as the number of renters declined in theUnited States by over one million families." Johnson patted creditunions on their collective backs for contributing to this success.According to a release from Matz' office, "For millions ofhard-working people across the nation, homeownership is no longerthe American dream; it has become a mirage. It's a vision that'salways out of reach. Many renters are struggling to get closer, butnever seem to get there." She continued, "While the nationalhomeownership rate is a record 70%, the homeownership rate forlow-to-moderate families has fallen to a lower level than in 1978:only 56%." In 1978, the level of homeownership among low-tomoderate-income families was 62%, according to the Center ofHousing Policy, the research arm of the National HousingConference, a non-partisan coalition of affordable housing expertsfrom public and private sectors. The NHC study found 18.7 millionworking families in America, defined as those households earningmore than the full-time equivalent of the minimum wage, but lessthan 120% of the local median income. The working families'homeownership rate is just 56% as opposed to the national rate ofnearly 70%. Closing this gap could add 2.5 million more homeowners.The study concluded that "working families with children, inparticular, are increasingly struggling to make ends meet... Thereduction in homeownership among working families with childrenoccurred at the same time that their number, and their relativeimportance, were on the rise." However, Special Assistant to theNCUA Chairman and Director of External Affairs Nick Owens stressedthat these numbers were focused on families with children."Homeownership has never been as high as it is today. Minorityhomeownership has never been as high as it is today," he stated."Sure we have more to do but the record still stands." Totalminority homeownership, Owens explained, is at a record high 51%.Specifically, Hispanic homeownership is steadily increasing to47.4%. He highlighted an article in Hispanic Business, whichdemonstrated that Hispanics are increasingly using home equity tostart new businesses. One of President George W. Bush's goals,which Johnson often quotes, is to increase minority homeownershipby 5.5 million by the end of the decade. Matz pointed out that homeprices have risen over three times faster than income in the lastfour years. In fact, Owens said between 1999 and 2003, home priceswere up 32.3%, according to the Office of Federal HousingEnterprise Oversight Repeat Sales Price Index. At the same timehousehold income grew about 6.1%, nearly five times as much. Butthat is why so many families want to become homeowners, to growtheir wealth. By the same token, Owens argued housing affordabilityhas bee "excellent" for a number of years. He cited data from TheRealtors index showing that the median family income has been morethan enough-130% to 140% of what is needed to purchase themedian-priced home. This has been bolstered by the historically lowinterest rate environment of most of the past two years. Each boardmember stated that homeownership is not a new item on their agenda.Matz pointed out that she has been working with the NeighborhoodReinvestment Corporation, and currently serves as its vice chair,for some time. She also has included affordable mortgages in herPartnering and Leadership Successes workshops. "Homeownership is avery significant issue and something I've felt very strongly aboutsince day one," Matz told Credit Union Times. "Credit union are andwill continue to be part of the solution," she said. But creditunions need to work harder. "Seventy percent of credit unions makemortgages, but it's only a thin veneer. They're not digging downdeep," Matz said. The NCUA Board member pointed out that only 2% ofall mortgages are made by credit unions. Of Johnson's recentrelease on homeownership, she said, "The more people jumping on thebandwagon the better." However, Owens emphasized that Johnson isnot a newcomer to this bandwagon. NCUA is a Blueprint partner withthe White House's Initiative to Increase Minority Homeownership andincreasing homeownership is a key "building block" in the AccessAcross America program. Owens pointed out that in September 2002,Johnson visited the Colonias region in El Paso, Texas as part of anAccess Across America empowerment event on housing. "If you asklow- to moderate-income families across America who have achievedhomeownership.and see the smiles on the faces of those people intheir new homes.the smiles on those faces speak volumes," Owenscommented. Neither candidate is new to the political arena either.Johnson is a former state senator and co-chair of Iowa'sBush-Cheney 2000 campaign. Matz was a Clinton appointee at theDepartment of Agriculture and recommended by then-Senate MajorityLeader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to the NCUA Board. President Bushnominated both. While both have been working the homeownershipissue, just about six weeks out from the presidential election,this appears to be the first time there has been a clash betweenthe two. "There is no question this is a bipartisan board," Owenssaid. "Sure, philosophies may be different at times." He describedthe board members as working in "harmony" despite their differingpolitical views and the empty third board seat. Owens concluded, "Idon't see where having a bipartisan board has impacted the agencyat all." Board Member Matz declined to discuss the politics ofNCUA's seventh floor. [email protected]

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